Mickey Mouse Rides Again

With the 2016 season reportedly the final year of racing at the iconic Coventry Stadium, I often find myself  thinking back to the halcyon days of the late sixties when I first discovered stock car racing and in particular those drivers who, for one reason or another, made an indelible mark on the memory of an impressionable teenager.

One of those drivers was the late Jim Potter (146) who, for a while, raced the car that was to become my all-time favourite stock car. It was whilst talking last year to another former Coventry driver, Rob Harrad (258) he let slip he was constructing a replica of this beautiful Darkie Wright-built  machine to join the ranks of the Heritage formula. Rob was a big Potter fan – Jim was a friend of the family and had his stock cars painted and sign-written at Connop Signs where Rob’s dad was the foreman. When Jim sadly passed away just over two years ago, Rob vowed to himself and Jim’s family that the mouse would ride again, a reference to the cartoon Mickey Mouse face that appeared on the rear panel of the 146 cars.

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Mickey Mouse rides again

I was, therefore, honoured to be invited to the Harrad workshop to view progress for myself and boy is this car shaping up to be a stunner! Built by Rob and the 258 team, Wayne Allen and Darrell Collins, work began just 9 months ago and was originally going to be a replica of the “Abbey Tyres” car that Jim won a Bradford final with (co-incidentally, the last car that Darkie Wright built and raced) but a call from good friend Dave Collins changed all that – Dave had sourced a Model Y body. The only problem was it was located in Ramsbottom and didn’t have any doors. Rob could make the door skins but where the ‘eck was Ramsbottom? (Granville would have known).

With the body secured (literally) to the home made chassis, LD axles were sourced much nearer to home and the car began to take shape. Dan Squire was looking for an engine for his Doug Wardropper (5) replica so Rob swapped his 389 Pontiac for a Buick 455 from the Squire stable but engine and gearbox are still being worked on. Rob wants to make the car as authentic as possible so he intends to fit a 1968 style seat and a jerry-can fuel tank in due course but he is proud of the fact that the rear outside wheel came from Jim Potter’s yard and just might have been fitted to the original car. A Mercedes grille was a feature of most Darkie Wright cars so Rob spared no expense in obtaining the real thing to stop the bonnet from fraying!

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The devil’s in the detail

Resplendent in the original Potter colour scheme, the rolling chassis was debuted at the Veterans Stock Car Association Dinner Dance in Coventry on Saturday 23 January 2016 and is sure to bring back many memories for those present. Rob would like to thank Dave, Wayne and Darrell for their invaluable assistance and Dan and Rob Squire for sourcing parts and being generally encouraging, but the biggest thanks must go to Rob’s wife Jan, who probably breathed a sigh of relief when he finally hung up his helmet in 2012 after a 24 year, on and off racing career and quite reasonably thought she would finally be able to put her car in the garage.

Jim Potter sold the Model Y to Shropshire farmer Frank Bourne (16), a man who set a new standard in car preparation and it is in Bourne’s red, blue and grey colours that I best remember it. Rob believes the car then went up North to the Rob Bradsell/Rob Lane camp in Manchester but what happened to it after that is a mystery. If anyone can throw any light on its subsequent owners and, though I hate to say it, eventual destruction I would be very grateful to hear from them.

Finally, my sincere thanks to Rob for giving me this exclusive preview of a car that I know has been and will continue to be, a labour of love. Hopefully we will see it on the Brandon shale sometime this year but maybe not in full blown heritage racing – it is far too precious for that.

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It ‘Disney’ seem like nearly fifty years ago

Words & photos: Mick Jenkins

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